Nicholas Carlson has a book coming out on Yahoo. Yesterday he had a long piece in the NYT that is drawn from his book.
In reading the piece, there is much to consider about leadership and strategy.
I found this story to be illuminating:
One November afternoon, Mayer took the stage at URL’s as hundreds of Yahoo employees packed the cafeteria. Mayer explained that she had sifted through the various questions on the internal network, but she wanted to begin instead with something else. Mayer composed herself and began reading from a book, “Bobbie Had a Nickel,” about a little boy who gets a nickel and considers all the ways he can spend it.
“Bobbie had a nickel all his very own,” Mayer read. “Should he buy some candy or an ice cream cone?”
Mayer paused to show everyone the illustrations of a little boy in red hair and blue shorts choosing between ice cream and candy. “Should he buy a bubble pipe?” she continued. “Or a boat of wood?” At the end of the book, Bobby decides to spend his nickel on a carousel ride. Mayer would later explain that the book symbolized how much she valued her roving experiences thus far at Yahoo. But few in the room seemed to understand the connection. By the time she closed the book, URL’s had gone completely silent.
This of course sounds absolutelty ridiculous, and it’s easy to ask: what the f**k was she thinking?
But, for whatever it’s worth, I promise you that when I led NSNO I had just as many stupid ideas about how to motivate and inspire.
What I also had was a management team that I ran almost all my speeches by. And they would reject the stupid stuff and tell me how to make the mediocre stuff much better.
So when I read this story, my takeaway was that one of the following was occurring:
(1) Mayer had a good MGMT team but was not vulnerable, humble, and self-aware enough to run things by them.
(2) Mayer was vulnerable, humble, and self-aware enough to run things by her MGMT team but she got bad advice from her team.
As a CEO, either one will doom you.